Beaujolais Nouveau is the most popular vin de primeur, a young wine that is produced quickly, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November every year, just in time for the start of the holiday season. Lighter-bodied and lower in alcohol than most reds, it’s a relatively inexpensive alternative (generally under $30 a bottle) to similar styles from nearby Burgundy. Here are six things you might not know about Beaujolais Nouveau, just in time for Thursday, November 21, Nouveau Beaujolais Day 2019.
Beaujolais is a red wine made from Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc, an old French cultivar born long ago in the village of the Gamay, in the 1360’s. The grape is credited with saving the village’s farmers in the wake of the agricultural decline caused by the Black Death, as it was easier to cultivate, ripens two weeks earlier than the more common Pinot noir variety, and produces a strong, fruity, abundant wine.
Beaujolais Nouveau is made using carbonic maceration, a winemaking technique that calls for the whole grapes to be fermented in a carbon dioxide-rich environment prior to crushing, as opposed to conventional alcoholic fermentation which requires crushing prior to fermentation. With carbonic maceration, most of the juice is fermented while it is still inside the grape, resulting in a fruitier, low-tannin red wine.
Until World War II, Beaujolais Nouveau was only enjoyed by locals and is named after the region where its made, Beaujolais, which overlaps Burgundy in the north and Rhône in the south.
By law, all grapes in the region must be harvested by hand. If you want to be the first to get your hands on the brand new Beaujolais Nouveau, head to the village that it was named after—Beaujeu, France—where the wine’s annual release is celebrated with a grand festival known as Les Sarmentelles.
Beaujolais nouveau is bottled between 6 to 8 weeks after harvest, making it a lower-tannin red wine. Since it doesn’t improve with age, so this is one wine that is made for the now! Expect spirited aromas, from bubblegum to bananas, raspberries to strawberries, figs to cranberries.
Beaujolais nouveau is best served slightly chilled to 13 °C (55 °F) and makes for the perfect wine to uncork as you celebrate the end of the harvest and usher in the holiday season.